a happy New Year! 2022 has begun and with it the year of the tiger, the black panther to be exact. In Korean, this year is called “Iminnyeon”, 임인년, where “Im” means black, “in” means tiger, and “nyeon” means year. Korea is known as the “Land of Tigers”. Tigers, which once roamed the Korean peninsula, are so ingrained in Korean history and folklore that you’ll see Korea depicted as a tiger… It just takes a little imagination. So what does the year of the tiger mean? How do you celebrate the Year of the Tiger in Korea? Here’s what you need to know…
What do you know about the Year of the Tiger in Korea?
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tiger in korean history
Historically, the tiger symbolized courage, strength and power and was worshiped as a deity of the mountains guarding villages and called Sansin, Sangon, or sansillieong. You can see paintings and talismans with a tiger adorning them and they were meant to ward off misfortune. In most of the folk tales you hear, the tiger was a mystical creature, generous with favors.
* Pictures from The National Folk Museum of Korea
The tiger also appears in the Dangon legend “단군” about the founding of the first kingdom of Korea, Gojoseon (2333 BC ~ 108 BC). In the story, Huanong, the son of Heavenly King Huan, descended to Earth to live among the people. On his journey, he meets a tiger and a bear who want to become human. The two animals were tasked with waiting inside a cave for 100 days to survive only on water and garlic basil. In the end the bear was able to withstand the test of patience and transformed into a human woman whom Hwanong would marry. The couple had a child named Dangun who would then go on to establish the First Kingdom of Korea. In the end, the tiger was left to roam Korea and ended up in more folk tales than the bear as well.
The tiger is so closely related to Korean history that in those folk tales, they often begin with “호랑이 ,” which means “at the time when tigers were smoking,” in other words.”A very long time ago.”
tiger in korea today
Today, the tiger is still very much a symbol of Korea. The South Korean national football team is known as the Asian Tigers and they use the tiger logo on their badges. The mascots of the Korean Olympics were “Hodori”, 호돌이, an orange Siberian tiger for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and “Soohorang”, 수, a white tiger for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
What will the Year of the Tiger hold?
People often wonder what each year represents and if the zodiac symbols can give us some hints of what’s to come. The tiger is the third of the twelve animals in the zodiac. This year is the year of the black panther. Black tigers tend to be energetic, brave and adventurous, so people expect 2022 to be an adventure full of positive energy. Here hopes!
how to celebrate
Visit the National Folk Museum of Korea
Each year, the National Folk Museum of Korea hosts an exhibition at the beginning of the year dedicated to the animal that will reign in the zodiac for the year. Until March 1, the exhibition is called “Land of Tigers”, 임인년 , and highlights the symbolism and meaning of the tiger in Korean culture. Learn about tigers in Korean folklore when you visit and see some beautiful and historical pieces of art. The exhibition will run until March 1, 2022.
- Tabuk: 37 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (37 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul)
- hours: November – February: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm; March – May: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm; June – August: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm on weekdays / 7:00 pm on weekends; September – October: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
- admission: Free
See what awaits you in 2022 by reading Saju
Fortune-telling is a very popular pastime for many in Korea. A form of entertainment, but also a guide to the many choices of life, reading Saju is a particularly popular experience between December and February as people look forward to the new year. Saju is the practice of decomposing cosmic energy at the hour, day and year in which a person dies. You’ll want to go with someone who can help with translation if you don’t speak Korean and want to be understood well, although there is a saju cafe in Hongdae that offers English translation services.
Jaeminan Jogakga (The Fun Sculptor Taro and the Saju Branch)
- Tabuk: 26 Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul (1st floor, 26, Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul)
- hours: Daily: 12:00 noon until 2:00 midnight
- website: http://www.funnysaju.com/
2022 Jeongdong National Theater New Year’s Party
Jeongdong Theater hosts their annual New Year’s Concert (국립) in the first week of January.
- Tabuk: 43 Jeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
- Concert: January 4, 2022; 7:30 PM
- running time: 90 minutes
- admission: 30,000 watts
- website: www.jeongdong.or.kr/
Happy year of the tiger to you and you and you and you! Hope we all have a good one.
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